Robert Reich is infectious. The former Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration has spent most of his career fighting for income equality. He speaks his labor of love to anyone that will listen. He’s written books, hosted talk shows, and been a go-to pundit for news networks all in an effort to deliver a simple message: that the middle class is disappearing and the government is doing nothing about it. While to some this message is bleak, dismissive, and futile, Mr. Reich with unrelenting enthusiasm, charm, and wit believes in a silver lining.
Inequality For All is an informative, passionate, and sometimes hopeful look at how the “middle class” has suffered in recent years. This documentary is a beautiful cliff note on the history and progression of economics in America. With digestible facts and tidbits fit for a general audience, the film examines why there is such a huge income gap, what Reich believes to be the cause of it, how it could be fixed, and whether or not there is genuine hope to do so. Overall, the audience is given a real sense of “why” we should be angry, as opposed to just being told we should be angry.
Since Reich is now a professor at UC Berkley, the film spends many moments in the classroom. Speaking to a jam-packed lecture hall, Reich educates his students and us on various historical turning points in American economic history. The filmmakers then enhance Reich’s specific talking points with graphs and charts to help visually drive the message home. The film also intersperses a few extremely informative “real life” examples following and talking with individuals from the middle and upper class; in particular, a struggling student in Reich’s class juxtaposed with an empathic one-percenter.
Aesthetically speaking, the film utilizes a beautiful minimalistic style guide. It is one of the more appropriately unique approaches in a documentary seen this year. Perhaps drawing on a nostalgic theme of prosperity, many of the graphs, charts, and other elements utilize a sort of 1960’s minimalistic marketing scheme. It’s clean, clear, concise, engaging, and meshes well with Reich’s own persona and the general subject matter of the film.
Additionally, there are times when Reich speaks candidly to the camera about his passion for economics, his own perceived personal failures, and why he fights for the “little guy.” While Inequality For All acts as a wonderful teaching tool for income disparity, it also is a great film about one man’s personal struggles and determination. It’s a layered example of “try, try again”, from the micro level of Reich to the larger viewpoint of those who are bearing the brunt of the economic situation.
Inequality for All is a success in that it does everything a documentary should. It educates, it relates, it entertains, and it empowers. While Reich admits he personally has failed in the task of bringing positive change to the economic landscape, he continues to educate to pass the message on. This documentary is a small part of that and if you find yourself inspired to help pick up the mantel, you can learn more with his book Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future. Ultimately, just enjoy this crash course on American economics, and you might just walk away inspired knowing that there is hope again in the charismatic message of one man fighting for your economic future.
Rating: 10 out of 11
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About the movie
Synopsis: A documentary that follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he looks to raise awareness of the country’s widening economic gap.
Stars: Robert Reich
Director: Jacob Kornbluth
Run time: 89 min.